Tehran, March 14, IRNA-Former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani announced Monday that he was 'completely ready' for a comeback in June 17 election, putting months of procrastination almost behind him.
But the official, who is the chairman of the arbitrative Expediency Council, left the door open for untoward occurrences like February 2000 when he pulled out of the parliamentary race at the eleventh hour, which saw reformists rise to prominence.
"I have complete readiness for candidacy in the elections, but I believe it is early to make a decision," he told a gathering at the inauguration of students news agency.
"It is likely that we witness the emergence of individuals with an acceptable future plan; otherwise, it will my turn (to come back).
"If this responsibility falls on me and I feel that the situations and the people require me (to participate), I will not reject it," Rafsanjani added.
Rafsanjani announced Sunday that he feels more pressed now by the call of duty to make a comeback in the June 17 election.
His new indication came as an IRNA survey found that Rafsanjani, who is the chairman of the arbitrative Expediency Council, holds an early lead in voting intentions.
"As we are getting closer to the election, I feel my responsibility is getting heavier," he told managing directors and chief editors of the press, gathered here from across the country.
"If a capable and popular person is found among the candidates, then so much the better; but if such an individual does not exist, be sure I will come back," he said.
Rafsanjani, however, stated that 'I have not reached a conclusion yet to come back'.
According to the IRNA survey of 7,100 people in 11 cities, 13.9 percent said they would vote for Rafsanjani who was president from 1989 to 1997.
The next most popular candidate was former parliament speaker Mehdi Karroubi, who was backed by 4.8 percent of those questioned.
Former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati came next with 4.2 percent, followed by former education minister Mostafa Moin with 4.1 percent and Ali Larijani with 3.9 percent.
However, none of the aspirants to replace President Mohammad Khatami will muster the 50 percent vote needed for an outright win in order to avoid a runoff election between the top two contenders, according to the poll.
On Saturday, Iran's police chief Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf said that he was considering whether to stand in the June presidential election.
Throwing his hat to an expanding ring of prospective runners, Qalibaf stated that he would make his intentions clear 'soon'.
"If I conclude that I can meet people's expectations after four years in office, I will be a candidate in the ninth presidential elections," he said.
Rafsanjani had announced Thursday he still remained undecided over standing in the June 17 presidential elections.
"I have still not come up with a definite feeling about the issue," he said in the northeastern city of Gorgan, indicating he was still biding his time.
"No gate has been left unopened in my life and I have no other personal desires save for a longing to spend what is left of my life in a place where I could be of service to the revolution and this system," he said.
Iran's former parliament speaker Mehdi Karroubi, a pragmatic reformist, joined the presidential fray in January.
The mid-ranking cleric has welcomed a swelling list of the candidates, saying a 'magnificent' organization of the election could help 'lift some of the international pressures (on Iran) or lessen them'.
The theologian, who is the secretary of the Association of the Combatant Clerics, launched his presidential bid with a charm offensive, trying to actuate the same spirit which propelled Khatami to a landslide in 1997.
"Those elections helped keep threats against the country at bay since the Americans were blatantly seeking to attack several places, but the problem was evaded with the massive turnout of the people," Karroubi said.
"And now, I believe the situation is sensitive and people's turnout in the presidential election is very decisive," he said, adding 'if the elections are held listlessly, the international pressures will double'.
However, Karroubi's participation could further split the vote in the presence of such reformists as former higher education minister Mostafa Moin and incumbent Vice President Mohsen Mehr-Alizadeh who have entered the race.
Karroubi has stressed, "I will not pull out of the race in favor of anyone or will not ask anyone to do so." The tentative list is still growing, with Iran's pointsman on nuclear issues, Hassan Rowhani, having confirmed his intention to join the race as has the former head of the state broadcasting, Ali Larijani.
Others included in the list are Iran's former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati, who is now the Supreme Leader's top advisor, and former chief of the Islamic Revolution's Guards Corps, Mohsen Rezaie as well as Tehran Mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Iran's incumbent president, Mohammad Khatami, is nearing the end of his second consecutive term and the constitution bars him from serving more than two consecutive mandates.
The eight-year tenure of the Iranian president, who won a landslide reelection in 2001, was far from plain-sailing, and he repeatedly complained of lacking enough power to deliver on his promises.
Khatami saw his bid to prop up presidential powers quashed after two of his bills failed to make it through stiff vetting of the country's supervisory apparatus even though they enjoyed overwhelming support of his allies in the parliament.
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